Niya C Sisk, Founder of Curly Red Stories Interviews Jackie Davis Martin, Author and Creative Writing Teacher in San Francisco Ca.
N.S. Right off the bat, I must ask, do you write stage plays? In particular, tragedy? I wasn’t surprised at all to see your reference to Shakespeare in your bio.
Jackie: I’ve never written a stage play unless you consider the play I wrote for my girlfriends in 9th grade. The characters were the four of us, grown up, with careers, conflicts, and exotic names. I’m very much interested in drama, though, and attend many plays in the San Francisco area, as well as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I like interior monologue and most plays don’t allow it. Well, Shakespeare does, and a few others.
N.S. While our theme this publication is “Place”… I love how your fictions transport me to places in the heart very quickly while beautifully grounded in physical description. The strength of your work is in the immediacy of emotion. Raw and delivered without self consciousness. I’m curious how you got that brave? Normally, I wouldn’t ask such a question, but I think you have the courage and self-awareness to answer it in full color. : )
Jackie: Am I brave? Maybe I am braver than I once was. I remember in a workshop I took with Ron Carlson at Tin House that he urged us to “let go of the wheel.” I also ask myself, What is this [story] really about? I guess, in addition, I try to write what I would like to read, and I appreciate others taking emotional risks, or creating characters who are flawed or vulnerable.
N.S. Why is Shakespeare such a strong influence? Other authors that you are influenced by and why?
Jackie: It seems silly of me to describe Shakespeare as a writer who understood so much about—for lack of a better term—the human condition. Even his minor characters are real people; his major characters can pierce to the heart: Hamlet, Othello, especially King Lear. And of course there is his use of language that is so beautiful and concise. I also have always loved Dostoevsky: he seems to start at one level and then dig deeper and then deeper still. That to me is bravery. Alice Munro takes details and turns them over and explores them and makes them fit into other details; she’s a wonderful observer of the complications of the simplest life.
N.S. How does San Francisco (your “place”) affect your process as a writer?
Jackie: San Francisco is both calming and exciting. The calm comes from the beauty of the place: it is a peninsula surrounded by the bay, the ocean, and hills and mountains. The houses are many-colored and tightly packed create an intensity that I feel promotes introspection. Then there is the excitement of the arts: the S.F. Opera, the S.F. Ballet, the S.F. Symphony. I mentioned the plays before, and they are abundant and good: Marin Theater to the north, A.C.T. right here in the City, Berkeley Rep across the Bay, as well as a host of smaller theaters and productions. Also, there are good writers in San Francisco and a strong writing community. One doesn’t have to search far for a competitive and supportive group to belong to, and can discover such fellow writers, as I did, through classes and workshops.
N.S. Your voice in your prose… well, it’s very clear and strong. Was there ever a time when you realized you are a writer and committed fully to it? Or, was it a natural geography forming slowly in your soul and your life?
Jackie: It will sound trite to say that I’ve been writing all my life. I have boxes of old journals that I sometimes tap into (What would one feel in that situation, really?). In high school my best friend (who is a published writer and teacher and still my best friend) and I exchanged writing. In college I took writing workshops and classes. Then, like many others who raise children and teach full-time, I was not able to create stories very often. Now, teaching part-time, I focus on writing. I still keep journals, but I don’t consider “journaling” (a word I dislike!) to be writing. Writing has to be shaped and thought about. I try.
N.S. We are thrilled and honored to have your work in our spring showcase. Is there anything more you’d like to add?
Jackie: I’d like to say that I’ve read a number stories published in Curly Red Stories and I love that I am now among the contributors. I thought that your questions were provocative and I thank you for asking them, for caring about all of us as writers.
THANK YOU JACKIE.